Maverick McNealy, who is named for the Ford Maverick, signs endorsement deal with the American carmaker

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – There are some sponsorship partnerships that just are so obvious.

Sam Ryder and transportation and logistics giant Ryder System, Peter Malnati and Malnati’s Pizza and, maybe the best of all, Brooke Pancake and Waffle House are just a few of recent vintage that jump to mind. Well, add Maverick McNealy and Ford Motors Co., to the list. The PGA Tour pro and the American carmaker announced an endorsement deal that started this week at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

McNealy, 27, and his three brothers – Dakota, Colt and Scout – are all named after American cars, a nod to their family’s connection to the auto industry.

The family’s ties to the innovative spirit of the Detroit auto industry and cars run deep. McNealy’s grandfather, Raymond William McNealy Jr., was vice chairman of American Motors, and an avid golfer. While McNealy’s father, Scott, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, claims he named Maverick after the Ford sedan, mom Susan says she named him after the Tom Cruise character in “Top Gun,” which was originally released in 1986.

Maverick McNealy, who was named after the Ford Maverick, signed an endorsement deal with Ford Motors. (Darren Reese)

The Ford Maverick was introduced in 1970 as the first American car to be marketed as a compact. It was designed to be an affordable, fuel-efficient car that could compete with the smaller, Japanese imports from Toyota and Datsun that were becoming popular in the U.S., and was produced until 1977.

According to Wikipedia, the Ford Maverick’s name was derived from the word for unbranded range animals, and the car’s nameplate was stylized to resemble the head of Longhorn cattle. The Ford Maverick was reborn as a compact pickup truck, starting with a 2022 model.

McNealy only has had two cars in his life. He drove a hand-me-down 2011 Ford Explorer in college and bought himself a 2021 Ford Explorer SC when he earned his PGA Tour card. On paper, the sponsorship deal with McNealy sounds like a no-brainer, but it took several years of dogged efforts by McNealy’s agent, Peter Webb, to bring it to fruition.

“It’s a tough brand to crack, so many layers, so many agencies but finally got it done,” Webb said.

As part of the program, McNealy will drive select Ford vehicles at different PGA Tour stops, including this week where his yellow Ford Mustang sticks out like a sore thumb in a parking lot full of Cadillacs, which is the official car of the PGA.

He will carry a customized Ford Maverick yardage book in his back pocket, and there also will be a digital campaign highlighting the different Ford cars and McNealy’s history with the brand.

“I’ve always driven Fords, my whole family drives Fords and it’s really cool now to be a Ford ambassador because it couldn’t be more who I am and what I like to drive,” McNealy said.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek